Fatalities have risen in the waste and recycling industry—totaling 33 in 2013, up from 26 in 2012—moving the industry to the fifth most dangerous profession in 2013 from sixth place in 2012, according to a new government report.
And recent weeks have brought no better news, as a series of fatalities and serious injuries has taken place across the industry. As a result, safety leaders from the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) declared October 15 to be a Safety Stand-Down Day. They asked that all member facilities to spend at least one hour per shift focused on safety education.
As part of the motivation, ISRI leaders wrote, “Since early August, we have suffered at least 11 fatalities and multiple critical injuries at facilities owned by, or associated with, ISRI members and at some non-ISRI member-owned facilities. This is a disturbing trend that must be stopped. Each of these terrible tragedies happened at companies that are owned and managed by good people who run fine companies. If tragedy can strike there, it can strike anywhere.”
In addition to the incidents taking place at facilities, collectors and drivers are facing dangerous working conditions. On that front, the National Waste & Recycling Association (NW&RA) has made it a priority to push for “Slow Down to Get Around” legislation across the country. It’s also implementing the Safe Driver Certification program and publishing the Manual of Recommended Safety Practices for the Waste & Recycling Industry.
On the legislative front, West Virginia signed a bill into law in this May. That came just more than a year after Jeremy Tabler, an Apple Valley Waste driver, was killed when he was struck by a motorist on a two-lane West Virginia road. Other states that have enacted legislation include Alabama, Florida and Wisconsin.
At the NW&RA’s urging, to help shine a light on the issue and, hopefully, get laws passed in other states, a bill-signing ceremony took place in West Virginia in August, with more than 30 people present, including many waste industry employees as well as Tabler’s wife and two daughters. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and State Senator Donald Cookman, the bill’s sponsor, both spoke about the importance of the legislation.
Such efforts on the part of the industry’s associations should be lauded. And companies need to continue to do their part by prioritizing safety training and best practices. In addition, increasing awareness in communities to help protect workers remains an important task.